Flexibility is going to be key for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal this season. Although he has remained fairly consistent in the way he has led the side [on the pitch], his desire to take his players to another level tactically has always been present.
At the start of his time in charge, he decided to keep things simple with a traditional 4-2-3-1 shape. This was fairly successful as the side’s defensive record improved and slowly but surely, draws transformed into wins after the February winter break.
Since the restart in June, those who watch Arsenal have become much more accustomed to seeing a 3-4-3. This began mostly as a means to an end as it gave the side greater defensive stability but Arteta has improved Arsenal’s play in possession with this system.
In the midst of this, however, it must not be forgotten that the Spaniard attempted to switch to a 4-3-3 immediately after the restart. Testing this system against Manchester City and Brighton injuries to Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari alongside David Luiz’s red card hurt the chances of it flourishing severely.
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As the side’s only left-footed centre-back at the time, Mari was going to bring much-needed balance to Arsenal’s build-up play. On the other side of the defence, Luiz’s influence in that respect had been steadily growing since Arteta’s arrival.
Moving up to the midfield, Xhaka had arguably the most important role. In the 4-2-3-1, he was used on the left of a double pivot. At the Etihad, he was used in the heart of the midfield three. Injured within the opening 10 minutes, the dynamic of the midfield changed instantly as now, Matteo Guendouzi [one of the two No.8.s was shunted into the anchor role].
Somewhat surprisingly, the other midfield starter that night was Joe Willock. Playing as one of the No.8.s that evening, the…